David Harsanyi

And why is privacy a more critical liberty than economic freedom -- or any other freedoms regularly pooh-poohed by progressives? Overregulating trade and markets can be more consequential to the freedom of an average person than any data mining program. Just ask a small-business owner.

Let's face it. Most of the concern about these NSA programs is likely driven by an antipathy toward the war on terror rather than a concern about the corroding of constitutional protections. And though I agree with progressives that we've lost too many liberties in this effort, it's a shame they don't believe we're deserving of similar liberty elsewhere in our lives.

H.L. Mencken wasn't exactly right when he wrote, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Let's concede that not all alarms are imaginary. Sometimes we are faced with genuine choice between more freedom and more safety. And as it stands, progressives almost always take the path of more safety. Why should it be different this time?

David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.